Through the years, I have heard many people speculate about the percentage of Rush Limbaugh's listening audience that would fall into the "Religious Right" camp. Has anyone out there ever heard a number? My guess would be way over 50 percent.
Yet it was clear that Limbaugh's call screener has always been careful not to let many questions and comments about faith issues get onto the show. Cigars and football, yes. Salvation and Christology, no.
There was a reason for that. Limbaugh's own background was on the progressive mainline Protestant side of the church aisle. He is the loyal son of a liberal United Methodist father whose views of the Bible were quite unorthodox.
Limbaugh is kind of an in-the-closet Libertarian, trapped with a Bible-believing audience. In the early radio days, he quietly voiced a modified pro-abortion rights perspective that evolved into a "leave it to the states" position. When hard-right religious conservatives have made it onto the air with the radio superstar, the results have often been tense. Check out this fundamentalist stab at Limbaugh online.
Now, Limbaugh's dear friends at the Palm Beach Post are getting to glory in the news that his third marriage is on the rocks, adding another layer of legal and personal pain to his battles with authorities over claims that he illegally shopped for doctors to obtain painkillers. This also adds a sour last note to a week dedicated to the legacy of the president who once called Limbaugh the emeging voice of American conservatism.
No news yet on whether it was Marta or Rush Limbaugh who filed for the divorce, according to a spokesman for Limbaugh. But the news media will be all over the story, no doubt led by Limbaugh's other dear friends at Air America. Inside the Beltway, many will ponder whether this will have an impact on President Bush and the Republican Party's fortunes in the fall. It will also be interesting to see how the conservative Christian press plays the story. Will Focus on the Family address this?
What a world. The Post not-so-gently offers a foretaste of the stand-up comic barrage to come.
Limbaugh's divorces haven't stopped him from dispensing marital advice. "If you want a successful marriage, let your husband do what he wants to do," he once said.
Limbaugh, who has no children, also has opined about gay marriage. "Marriage is about raising children. That's the purpose of the institution."
The press will certainly tune in on Monday to see if Limbaugh retreats with a "Best of Rush" re-run. Millions of his religious listeners will do the same.